Setting against the backdrop of verdant mountains, Hoshinoya Guguan is one of Taiwan’s newest hot spring resorts. It is located in Guguan, a beautiful valley just 90 minutes away from Taichung City.
Nestled between 3000 meters high mountains and the Dajia River, Guguan has long been renowned for its hot springs. It is like the Taiwanese version of an onsen village where visitors come to enjoy the mild, hydrogen carbonate spring water.
The water is good for the health, that’s why a handful of spas and resorts are built in this area. And the newest one is Hoshinoya Guguan which has just opened in June 2019.
1. The Architecture
Simple yet elegant, Hoshinoya Guguan reflects aesthetic concepts of the traditional ryokan; but with a modern touch. It blends seamlessly into the surrounding natural environment. Here, the opulence (such as excessive decorations and television) is replaced by a subtle beauty, allowing guests to relax and enjoy nature at its finest.
The moment when the driver veered into the resort’s entry, I immediately felt the difference. Soothing green bamboo forest lines the path, bringing me back to the tranquil morning at Arashiyama. The road then led us to a contemporary foyer, which is decorated by light-brown furniture and oversize nature-inspired paintings. From there, the door opens to the beautiful Water Garden that covers the vast premises.
2. The Water Garden
Inspired by the hot springs of Guguan valley, this peaceful garden features water channels flowing through woods and flower beds. The water surface is colored with water lilies and other aquatic plants, while above them pine trees soar. There is a walkway running through the garden. It twists and turns, to both avoid damaging the natural ecosystem and to allow guests to admire the landscape from different angles.
In this Water Garden, the appeasing sound of water seems omnipresent. I noticed the plop of droplets, the murmur of streams, and the thundering sound of the hot spring waterfall. Perhaps the architect intentionally creates this “symphony” to let us hear the sounds that we normally miss, and through that brings us closer to nature.
3. The Room
After checking in, the receptionist guided me through a manicured bamboo garden to the residential area. She explained that the architect draws inspiration from the atmospheric alleys of Taipei to design the building’s sleek hallways. They are shaped from slatted wood so that the cool breeze from the valley can pass through. A few minutes later, we arrived at our room – a modern maisonette. The first floor is bedroom and living room, furnished with stone-blue tatami and simple dark wood furniture. The room boasts a large glass window extending from floor to ceiling, enabling guests to enjoy the magnificent landscape.
The highlight, however, lies on the second floor which is dedicated to hot spring bathing. In a ryokan, the onsen or hot spring bath is an essential component. But at Hoshinoya Guguan, they go a step further and bring onsen to each room. It gives the privacy that many guests (including myself) much preferred. Placed in a sunken area, the bath is constantly supplied by soft low-alkaline, naturally carbonated water which provides a variety of skincare benefits. Immersion in this environment is a relief for both the body and the soul.
4. The Onsen
Aside from the in-room hot spring bath, the resort offers two public onsens, indoor and outdoor (segregated by genders). While the indoor baths are permeated with the scent of cypress, the outdoor baths imitate mountain streams weaving across the garden.
Part of the joy of hot spring bathing is cooling off afterward. After soaking in the hot water, I was refreshed by a portion of shaved ice. The coolness of ice and the complex flavor of matcha works like magic. There is also an open-air lounge on the fourth floor where guests can enjoy the fresh air while admiring the beauty of the surrounding mountains.
5. The Food
After the bathing ritual, my staycation continued with a much-expected dining experience called kaiseki-ryōri. It is a multi-course menu in which each dish represents a unique fusion of local flavors and meticulous culinary techniques. They are served on exquisite dishware that either complements or accentuates the color of the food.
Following the memorable dinner was a hearty breakfast the next morning. It features eggs, vegetables, fish, and rice, prepared using traditional Taiwanese recipes. Both meals were set in a contemporary restaurant with a spectacular view of the Water Garden. I remember how delighted I was when seeing the garden bathed in the first sunlight. Purely restorative!
This post is written based on my personal experience. It was neither sponsored nor solicited by Hoshinoya Guguan or any third party. All texts and pictures reflect my own opinions and are provided solely for informational purposes. I will not be liable for any errors or damages by making use of this information.